Three health hazards people share with their pets

Posted on 7 June 2017

Getting sick is not just a human dilemma. Some diseases, especially the lifestyle-related ones, extend to our four-legged friends. We review the causes, similarities, differences and treatments of three conditions we share.

Skin cancer

The hazard

Living in Africa under sunny skies is a risky business, especially for sun worshippers and those fair of fur or complexion. White cats that loll about in the sun and blonde-haired, blue-eyed surfers would be most vulnerable, for example. However people of dark complexion are also at risk and may be diagnosed later, reducing their chances of treatment.

In common

The main forms of skin cancer, melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, are diagnosed in people, cats and dogs.

The difference

Basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent kind of skin cancer in humans, but is found relatively less often in animals. The most susceptible areas are the face, ears and nose with the neck, hands, chest, back and legs also frequently at risk in humans.

What to do

Prevention is better than cure. Regular application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen should be routine practice. Possible treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Diabetes

The hazard

The obesity epidemic is escalating in people and pets and has been linked to a rise in the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is more prevalent in cats than dogs and usually occurs in neutered males older than 10 years. Similarly, in humans, the risk for developing diabetes increases with age.

In common

Regardless of species, this complex condition is characterised by either a lack of insulin or a lack of response to insulin in the body, which leads to elevated blood sugar levels.

The difference

While the effects of elevated blood sugar levels wreak havoc on the health of animals and homo sapiens alike, humans are better equipped to sense when their blood sugar is high or low and can react accordingly by injecting insulin or eating something.

What to do

Monitor blood glucose levels closely. Home testing kits are available for people and pets. You will need to work with your doctor (or veterinarian) to tailor an appropriate treatment plan that could potentially include diet modifications, blood sugar control medications and insulin.

Arthritis

The hazard
Arthritis is a type of inflammation in the joints typically caused by wear and tear (osteoarthritis) or an autoimmune problem (rheumatoid arthritis), where the immune system attacks the joints.

In common
Regardless of type, this chronic disease reduces quality of life by causing pain, immobility and fatigue and needs to be managed by a medical professional.

The difference

Your pets can’t tell you that they’re in pain or where it hurts. Watch for limping, postural changes and difficulty moving. Dogs are more susceptible than cats and larger breeds more so than smaller ones.

What to do

Supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin can be useful for people and pets. Speak to your healthcare provider about optimal dosage. Other helpful strategies for both humans and pets would be to lose weight if necessary, exercise lightly and manage pain with the medication recommended by your healthcare provider.

References:

www.cansa.org
www.healthgrades.com
www.who.int
www.arthritis.org
www.healthypets.mercola.com
www.vetstreet.com
www.peteducation.com

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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